Study shows homeless people in England die 30 years younger than national average

Homeless people in England die 30 years younger than the national average according to the most comprehensive study ever on mortality and cause of death in people living rough, in hostels and night shelters, by the University of Sheffield.


Following the research, Crisis – the national charity for single homeless people who commissioned the study – have called for NHS restructuring to consider the needs of people living on the streets.

The report, titled Homelessness Kills: a study of the mortality of homeless people in England in the 21st century was carried out by Dr Bethan Thomas of the University of Sheffield's Department of Geography.

Drawing on different datasets, Dr Thomas analysed more than 1,700 deaths in England for the period 2001-2009 to estimate the average age of death not just for rough sleepers, as previous studies have, but for the wider homeless population, including those who reside in night shelters and homeless hostels

It revealed the average age of death in the homeless population is just 47, compared to 77 years old in the general population. At the ages of 16-24, homeless people are at least twice as likely to die as their housed contemporaries; 25-34 year olds are four or five times more likely and at ages 35-44, homeless people are five to six times more likely to die.

The research highlights drug and alcohol abuse are particularly common causes of death amongst the homeless population, accounting for more than a third of all deaths.

Homelessness Kills is the first attempt to analyse homeless mortality at the national level for all causes of death and how these differ from the general adult population. It reveals that homelessness is incredibly difficult both physically and mentally and has significant impacts on people’s health and wellbeing. It leads to premature mortality and increased mortality rates. Ultimately, homelessness kills.

Despite these health issues too often homeless people are being failed by the health system.

A snapshot of causes of death amongst homeless people reveals they are:

• Seven times more likely to die from alcohol related diseases
• 20 times more likely to die from drugs misuse
• More than three times more likely to commit suicide than the general population.
• Almost seven times more likely to die from HIV or hepatitis
• Three times more likely to die from chronic lower respiratory diseases than the general population, with an average age of death from this of 56 compared to 76
• Twice as likely to die from heart attacks and chronic heart disease and at an average age of 59 – 16 years lower than the general population which is 75-years-old.

The report stresses that the upcoming restructure and reform of the NHS as well as the new duty to reduce health inequalities provide an opportunity to tackle these failings and create a health service that truly works for homeless people.

In light of the findings, Crisis has launched a new campaign, Homelessness Kills, calling for:

• The delivery of mainstream health services to be reformed to better meet the needs of homeless people, for example ensuring that vulnerable homeless people are easily able to register with GPs and that no-one is discharged from hospital without accommodation and support.

• Specialist services to be protected and new services to be commissioned by the National Commissioning Board and local Clinical Commissioning Groups, for example services to find and treat tuberculosis and help those with a dual diagnosis of both alcohol and mental health needs.

• The health needs of homeless people to be made a priority in the restructure of the NHS and in particular for the Care Quality Commission to review healthcare for homeless people and recommend improvements

Leslie Morphy, Crisis chief executive, said: “Homeless people are amongst the most vulnerable in our society and it is clear that despite significant investment in the NHS they are not getting the help they need to address their health issues. The Government and health services must do more to improve the health of single homeless people and ensure they can access mainstream and specialist services. If they don’t then we fear homeless people will continue to die much younger than the general population.”

Additional information


Crisis is the national charity for single homeless people. We are dedicated to ending homelessness by delivering life-changing services and campaigning for change. Our innovative education, employment, housing and well-being services address individual needs and help people to transform their lives. We are determined campaigners, working to prevent people from becoming homeless and advocating solutions informed by research and our direct experience. We have ambitious plans for the future and are committed to help more people in more places across the UK. We know we won’t end homelessness overnight or on our own. But we take a lead, collaborate with others and, together, make change happen.

The University of Sheffield

With nearly 25,000 students from 125 countries, the University of Sheffield is one of the UK’s leading and largest universities. A member of the Russell Group, it has a reputation for world-class teaching and research excellence across a wide range of disciplines. The University of Sheffield has been named University of the Year in the Times Higher Education Awards for its exceptional performance in research, teaching, access and business performance. In addition, the University has won four Queen’s Anniversary Prizes (1998, 2000, 2002, and 2007).

These prestigious awards recognise outstanding contributions by universities and colleges to the United Kingdom’s intellectual, economic, cultural and social life. Sheffield also boasts five Nobel Prize winners among former staff and students and many of its alumni have gone on to hold positions of great responsibility and influence around the world. The University’s research partners and clients include Boeing, Rolls Royce, Unilever, Boots, AstraZeneca, GSK, ICI, Slazenger, and many more household names, as well as UK and overseas government agencies and charitable foundations.

The University has well-established partnerships with a number of universities and major corporations, both in the UK and abroad. Its partnership with Leeds and York Universities in the White Rose Consortium has a combined research power greater than that of either Oxford or Cambridge.


For further information please contact:

Paul Mannion
Media Relations Officer
The University of Sheffield
0114 222 9851